Siggraph 2012 Retrospective

Siggraph 2012 Retrospective

Keith Guerrette, Lead Visual Effects Artist, details his trip to Siggraph 2012 and what he saw and learned there.

August 24, 2012

This was my fifth year attending Siggraph in one capacity or another – without ever really having expectations from large conferences, I ended up with a mixed bag of takeaways and a very enjoyable experience. Below, an overview of my experiences with the career fair, exhibit hall, Master’s Classes, and everything else.

To begin, I got suckered into helping out with the Naughty Dog booth in the career fair for the week. I say “suckered into” because most people have a derogatory impression of the experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting the chance to meet all the new (and some legendary) artists, designers, and programmers that swing by, and even got a little nostalgia from my old days of teaching. We had a plethora of fantastic students and quite a few experienced professionals come by to say hi and chat with us. Since we weren’t actively accepting resumes/interviewing on the spot, it kept most of the conversations very casual, constructive, and fun.

They’re all insanely talented at their day jobs. From the career booth, I was always running off to what I, and most, consider the most exciting part of Siggraph: The Master’s Classes. I won’t go into too many details, but after some great presentations from Pixar, ILM, production experts on John Carter, and various other companies/academics, two things became clear. The first, and this is true of all conferences I’ve been to, is that public speaking is really difficult for just about anybody unless they are doing it all the time. I don’t mean any disrespect to any of the presenters by this comment – they’re all insanely talented at their day jobs.

The second, and more relevant, is that the film industry has become heavily focused on optimizing their render and production pipelines in ways that games have been doing for years. I found this theme always lurching behind almost every presentation, and it fascinated me – the thought that talent and tools are allowing artists are to produce so much content that, despite the rate of technology growth, major studios are finally investing large amounts of money to implement instancing, LODs, real-time rendering, and visibility culling into their pipelines blew me away.

On the other hand, us real-time people are still 1,000% enthralled, and excited like giddy children by the artistic and technological advancements in the world of our pre-rendered brethren.

Like giddy children by the artistic and technological advancements in the world The exhibit hall was in many ways a disappointment for me – it’s usually not too difficult for me to find something cool and crazy to geek out on, but this year I was overwhelmed by vague marketing expressions with no tangible meanings and 3d printers. Too many of the booths required me to stop and ask, “so…. What exactly is it that you’re trying to sell to me?” Which, in my opinion, was a pretty clear that the thousands of dollars they spent on their booths was misguided… As for the printers, it just struck me as a pricing war happening across the aisles. To be fair, if I were in the market for a 3d printer, it would have been exciting. But alas, I wasn’t.

Let’s be honest though, the truly best part of large conferences like these are the opportunities to see old friends, coworkers, mentors and heroes from around the world, here for one short week each year. The after-conference hours during the week of Siggraph are often times more busy than the conference itself, and this year was no exception. I was blessed with the company of many amazing friends from the world over, and introduced to dozens of more fantastic people that I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with and seeing again in a little less than a year. Now to organize the new additions to my business card collection.